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Reflecting on life in Tabernacle

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From October 1963 when he was sustained to the Quorum of the Twelve to April 2000 when the Conference Center was dedicated, President Thomas S. Monson delivered 101 general conference messages from the pulpit of the Tabernacle on Temple Square, "not including those given at general auxiliary conferences and other meetings held here." His remarks during the Saturday afternoon session of conference brought the total to 102.

"I have had many spiritual experiences over the years as I have stood here," President Monson said prior to President Gordon B. Hinckley rededicating the renovated Salt Lake Tabernacle. President Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, reflected on the significant events in his life associated with the historic Tabernacle.

In September 1935, his mother took then 8-year-old Tommy on a streetcar to the Tabernacle baptistry, which was then located in the Tabernacle. "At the time it was not as customary as it is now for fathers to baptize their children, since the ordinance was generally performed on a Saturday morning or afternoon, and many fathers were working at their daily professions or trades.

"I dressed in white and was baptized. I remember that day as though it were yesterday and the happiness I felt at having had this ordinance performed."

Continuing, President Monson recalled attending, with his wife, Frances, the Sunday afternoon session of general conference in April 1950 during which President George Albert Smith sounded the prophetic warning: "It will not be long until calamities will overtake the human family unless there is speedy repentance. It will not be long before those who are scattered over the face of the earth by millions will die ... because of what will come."

Two-and-a-half months later, on June 25, 1950, war broke out in Korea, a war which would eventually claim an estimated 2.5 million lives.

President Monson related being called to the Quorum of the Twelve by President David O. McKay in October 1963. He was to tell no one about this sacred calling except his wife, so on the following morning he entered the Tabernacle for general conference, "not knowing exactly where to sit." Being a member of the Priesthood Home Teaching Committee, he took a seat with committee members.

"During the session, the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles were sustained and, of course, my name was read. I believe the walk from the audience to the stand was the longest walk in my life," he said.

President Monson then related how, during general conference in October 1975, he felt prompted to direct his remarks to a little girl who was seated in the balcony of the Tabernacle. "I called the attention of the audience to her and felt a freedom of expression which testified to me that this small girl needed the message I had in mind concerning the faith of another young lady."

After the session, President Monson returned to his office. Waiting for him were Misti White, the child to whom he had directed his conference message, her grandparents and an aunt. He learned that the little girl's eighth birthday was approaching and she wanted to be baptized, but her less-active mother was suggesting she wait until she was 18 years old. Misti had told her grandparents, with whom she lived, "If we go to conference in Salt Lake City, maybe Heavenly Father will let me know what I should do."

Traveling from California, they were able to obtain seats in the Tabernacle for the Saturday afternoon session. Later, in Elder Monson's office, "this sweet young girl said, 'Brother Monson, while you were speaking in conference, you answered my question. I want to be baptized!"

Misti was baptized and, 14 years ago, President Monson performed her sealing in the temple to a fine young man. Together they are rearing five beautiful children.

"My brothers and sisters, I feel privileged to be standing once again at this Tabernacle pulpit in this building which holds for me such wonderful memories. The Tabernacle is a part of my life — a part which I cherish."